White House wants to keep secret which government staffers have been lobbyists

"It is an extraordinary thing. I have never seen anything like it," says the head of Office of Government Ethics

Published May 22, 2017 12:49PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

It's debatable whether President Donald Trump's supporters ever really cared about ending the reign of lobbyists when they talked about "draining the swamp," but one thing is clear:

When it comes to the issue of lobbyists in his administration, Trump wants to keep the public in the dark.

[salon_video id="14769929"]

President Donald Trump's administration has asked the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., to withdraw a request for the disclosure of all ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists working for the White House or federal agencies, according to a report by The New York Times. Shaub asked for copies of the waivers from every federal agency, but the Office of Management and Budget insists that it needs to "seek further legal guidance" and claims that "the very fact that this internal discussion was leaked implies that the data being sought is not being collected to satisfy our mutual high standard of ethics."

Shaub seemed taken aback by the White House's response, telling the Times: "It is an extraordinary thing. I have never seen anything like it."

Although Shaub was appointed by President Barack Obama, his view on the Trump administration's behavior seems to be shared by Marilyn L. Glynn, who served as general counsel for and acting director to the Office of Government Ethics under President George W. Bush.

"It challenges the very authority of the director of the agency and his ability to carry out the functions of the office," Glynn told the Times.

Although Trump signed an executive order weeks into his presidency that banned lobbyists from working on "particular" government matters when there was a potential conflict with former clients, the president also reserved the right to issue waivers to that rule. Unlike Obama (who also issued waivers), Trump did not arrange it so that his waivers would automatically be made public.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), actress Cady McClain ("All My Children"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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